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India: The Long Road to Agra

We arrived in New Delhi on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  This was our first trip to India, so we would only stay the night in New Delhi and leave the next morning with the entire wedding party for Agra to see the Taj Mahal.  Obviously, we  heard India was poor, backward and that traffic in New Delhi was terrible, so we expected the worst.  A car had been arranged to pick us up at the airport and whisk us off to the hotel.  As we drove off, the first thing I saw through the smog of the airport was cows walking directly toward us in the middle of an incredibly busy highway. I wanted to panic, but looked around for cues only to see no one even blinked indicating this was totally normal. I would later learn that cows are sacred in India and they share the streets with cars, dogs and pedestrians in every major city in India.

As we pulled up to the hotel guards checked under the entire vehicle with mirrors for bombs before letting us through the large rot-iron gate.  On the other side of the gate we found The Orchid, a very Americanized business hotel sitting on a beautiful green compound in the middle of otherwise barren, polluted area outside the airport.  The hotel was so nice I immediately thought this wasn’t going to be so bad after all.  Just as I let my guard down we got on the bus to Agra.

We were 17 people in a bus with no toilet, but since it was only a two hour trip we all figured it wasn’t a bid deal.  When the two hour trip turned into seven of the bumpiest hours of our lives we thought again.  Below are some pictures taken from the side of the road on my seven hour journey to see the Taj Mahal.  What we found, what you see in the pictures below, was both depressingly and beautiful. People living in absolutely horrid conditions without clean water, food or toilets. However, these same people were incredibly beautifully dressed in the most amazing colors I had ever seen.

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Isn’t this kid amazing looking?  He looks like he should be on a Gucci billboard ad.  His clothes lay on him just right and his hair perfectly coiffed. After taking this shot I wanted so bad to go back and find this kid, get him to Paris to become a model and escape the life he was walking back toward, which from what I could tell was a wooden hut on the side of the road.

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This picture is actually the perfect one to round out the series, as it sums up the people of India in one shot. Despite horrid living conditions, a lack of clean water and never knowing where their next meal is coming from, they seem genuinely happy.  While this might be an oversimplification, I can guarantee you that these people seem exponentially happier than the hoards of wealthy New Yorkers walking the streets of Manhattan each day who, despite wearing $3000 suites, $500 shoes and $10,000 handbags, look completely miserable!

Next stop, Agra!

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